Parental Prerogative

by Blair Sullivan | 5/7/09 3:11am

Last month, Republican lawmakers introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would explicitly grant parents basic authorities to raise their children. Although it seems given that parents would already have these authorities, such rights are not explicitly enumerated in the constitution. As a result, parental rights remain threatened by the interpretations of judges, as well as by international laws.

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution grants the basic rights of the Constitution to children. While children should certainly be entitled to such basic protections, it should also go without saying that children live, to an extent, under the authority of their parents. But not all judges see it this way.

Attorney Michael Farris, president of parentalrights.org, argues on the web site that the lack of an explicit parental rights amendment allows judges to draw quite liberal interpretations of the rights of children.

Among the extreme interpretations that Farris cites is the California Court of Appeals' recent ruling that parents don't have the right to home-school their children if they are not properly credentialed.

In another case, Farris says the Supreme Court of Washington state ruled (in re Sumey) that if parents ground their children for taking illegal drugs, the state can seize custody from the parents.

It's clear that, in leaving out specific provisions of the Constitution about parents' rights to raise their children, the founding fathers did not intend for such extreme rulings.

Our country was founded on, and has continued to rest on, the strength of the family unit. As long as parents are not inflicting physical or psychological harm, they should have the authority to make decisions for the well-being of their children.

In addition to domestically imposed laws, parental rights may be threatened by international agreements. As of now, the United States remains one of two U.N. members not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, introduced tothe United Nations in 1989 (Somalia is the other member that has not ratified). The CRC is a set of non-negotiable standards and obligations that set minimum entitlements and freedoms that are to be respected by all signatories.

While Republicans see the treaty as interfering with U.S. sovereignty and parental rights, Democrats are largely in favor. President Obama has expressed his support, declaring that it is "embarrassing" that the United States has not yet ratified the CRC. With Obama in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate, the ratification of the CRC is becoming increasingly likely.

While the CRC has noble intentions, and while it is often important to lead by example, ratifying the treaty would have negative implications for our country. The CRC is more than a statement of morality -- it is a binding document that will usurp the sovereignty of our government.

Once ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate and signed by President Obama, the CRC will become the supreme law of the land, on the same footing as the U.S. Constitution; under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, all treaties are awarded this status.

And, once the United States ratifies the treaty, much of the power of interpretation and implementation of the laws will be placed in the hands a U.N. committee, rather than those of U.S. governing bodies. This power becomes problematic when the interpretations of the U.N. committee clash with the laws and values of our nation.

Between the possible failure of the parental authority amendment, and the potential ratification of the CRC, parents' rights are in jeopardy.

The desire to protect children's rights is a noble one, but if we let this desire go completely unchecked, we may well end up undermining the entire institution of family.